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I stretch my legs out across the jetty's frosty surface and take in a deep breath

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I stretch my legs out across the jetty's frosty surface and take in a deep breath. Just like I've been doing for the past few days, I inhale the cold air and look out across the calm, glassy surface of the lake. Unlike summer, when the sound of cicadas had floated on the wind, the jetty is silent. The air is still rich with pine, and I smile at the memory of the few weeks I spent with James. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine him coming down the steps behind me, lantern in hand, his sweet smile brightening his tanned face.

The surety of it - the cotton-wool safeness we created in that brief golden summer - seems a million miles away from the fragile feeling of my second stay in Norris Lake. It wasn't a surprise Lissie and I fought. After leaving me stranded at the Country Club, I was annoyed. More so once James spluttered that Lissie had said I was coming home with Cricket. Her wide-eyed lie that she'd misunderstood the situation fooled him.

Not me.

Since then, we've walked around each other on eggshells. Not tense, just cautious. Both overly polite and sweet. Forced. It's as if we're scared that our true feelings might break the 'perfect' holiday we hoped for. With every passing day, Lissie and I drift further apart, despite the desperate protestations of our forever friendship. It's as if the vast ocean between us has pushed us to different paths, moulding us into versions of ourselves that the other neither recognises nor likes.

Or maybe it's that we see each other for the first time.

The sound of a car crunching on gravel makes my heart skip a beat. After a few days apart, my body trembles at the thought of seeing Finch again. Our kiss has been running through my mind on repeat. Together at last, we have a few days to prove to my parents he isn't all bad.

I skip up the steps to the driveway. When I reach the side gate and look out at the familiar four by four in front of the cabin, I pause.

'So you gonna welcome me in or just stare at me like a dang catfish?' Anna-Beth asks, slipping out of the car and pulling bags behind her that are fit to bursting.

From the back seat, two more smiling faces climb out, making my heart soar. Elodie carries a pale blue box, which can only mean one thing - a pie from Miss Delilah's. Cricket appears behind her in a huge sequined bomber jacket and neon knitted hat.

'God, I'm so glad you guys are here,' I say, pulling Cricket into a hug.

I release Cricket, looking over her shoulder to where Anna-Beth drags out a suitcase.

'Um, AB,' I start, 'are you planning on staying tonight? Because the Whittinghams are super lovely and all, but I'm not sure they have a bedroom for you.'

'Oh bless your heart, no. We are still staying at mine, but seeing as we've been invited to Brody's infamous New Year Eve bash - '

'And seeing as it's the first time you'll be there as Finch's official girlfriend,' interrupts Cricket, her eyes wide and sparkling.

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